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Spring Workshop at JPI Introduces Conceptual Marriage of Permaculture and Biodynamics in Farm Design

July 18, 2019

Spring Workshop at JPI Introduces Conceptual Marriage of Permaculture and Biodynamics in Farm Design

Within the eight lectures Rudolf Steiner gave almost one hundred years ago that comprise the current practice of Biodynamic Agriculture, one lecture specifically addressed the design of the farm organism in a very comprehensive manner. The proper proportions of woodlands to croplands, animals, bird and insect life to be envisioned for the farm to attain a healthy balance, as well as the reasons for those suggestions according to Steiner’s philosophy of a healthy farm organism were included within all the now familiar indications for managing soil fertility, farming within a geocentric view that includes all the cosmic influences in our earthly sphere, and the indications for making and using the biodynamic preparations. 

Since this seminal work of Rudolf Steiner and its implications for the spiritual renewal of agriculture, other disciplines that state similar approaches to regenerative and enlivening techniques have been created.  All of these approaches have underpinnings within the lectures of “Foundations for the Spiritual Renewal of Agriculture”, aka the Agriculture Course. Portions of organic agriculture can be traced to the conversations and influence from Pfeiffer to Rodale in the middle of the 20th century here in the US. The discipline of Permaculture, originating in Australia with Bill Mollison and David Holgrem, has specific similarities that can be drawn to lecture seven of the agriculture course. These disciplines are supportive and comprehensive in their own right. In principle, they are ecologically sound but lack the spiritual foundations found in Biodynamic agriculture. The consciousness of inclusion and unity to support earth evolution is the impetus of finding harmony between these disciplines and implementing their common good in practice. 

In June at the JPI farm, a cohort of fifteen students, two faculty and JPI staff endeavored to marry the disciplines of biodynamics and permaculture in a hands on educational workshop with the objective to design a biodynamic farm organism whose purpose is in alignment with JPI’s mission.  Using the on site resource of the JPI farm, we envisioned a farm organism designed with permaculture principles and managed with JPI’s mission and vision of:

  • Making and distributing high quality biodynamic preparations
  • Providing education in making and using the preparations
  • Providing farm based research within all the principles of biodynamic agriculture

 A diverse international student cohort represented several related disciplines of architecture, Waldorf and traditional educators, agricultural professionals, students within sustainability degree programs, and biodynamic gardeners and farmers. The workshop was facilitated by Wind Clearwater, an experienced permaculture designer and landscaper from western Colorado, very familiar with Biodynamics; and Patricia Frazier, JPI board member, preparation maker and biodynamic farmer also from western Colorado. Wind and Patricia have taught many Permaculture Design Certificate courses together utilizing the marriage of biodynamics and permaculture over the past decade. Local guest lecturers Ed Skopal and Leaf Myczack added valuable related information about local plant materials for both medicinal, edible and landscaping using permaculture design principles and the extremely important management of water in the landscape. JPI staff members Adam Fisher and Larry Mabe led informative lectures on preparation making relative to the season, and current cultivation practices on the JPI farm. Their knowledge of current preparation making activities included choosing appropriate preparation pit locations, seasonal preparation making activities, preparation storage, and needed plant materials and animals.  They lent valuable insight into the influence of preparation making and application upon educational needs, future needs within the farm for animals, composting operations, student housing, and operational needs for preparation making and distribution. All these were major factors influencing an intelligent and functional design for the future of a JPI farm organism that reflects form, function, and beauty.

The resulting designs were intricate, beautiful, and reflect a superior grasp of the concepts inherent in both Permaculture and Biodynamic Agriculture. Using familiar forms in nature such as spirals, circles, and lemniscates; nuances of the zodiac; and the different eco zones of woods, fields, river, and wild areas, the students drew and demonstrated many different pictorial representations of a farm organism using all the necessary elements of the JPI farm organism aligning with our mission. JPI plans to continue with the permadynamics education next fall, an independent study in winter, and completion of the design certificate in “permadynamics” consistent with a traditional Permaculture Design Certificate next spring. For information on joining the current class, please contact the JPI office or  visit the website.

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